The Castles Of Burgundy

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Stefan Feld is a designer who is known for the ‘point salad’ style of game. That is, a game where there are lots of ways to get points, and all of them feel like they are viable for winning strategies. The Castles of Burgundy is not only his most well-known but arguably his best too.  The game sees you taking a player board full of hexes that make up the terrain you will be add…
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Awards

85%

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Clever use of dice and very little randomness.
  • Highly replayable with the different estate layouts.
  • Rewarding.

Might Not Like

  • Fiddly set-up.
  • The light card stock player boards (though certainly not a deal breaker.)
  • The minimal player interaction may not be your thing.
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Description

Stefan Feld is a designer who is known for the ‘point salad’ style of game. That is, a game where there are lots of ways to get points, and all of them feel like they are viable for winning strategies. The Castles of Burgundy is not only his most well-known but arguably his best too.

The game sees you taking a player board full of hexes that make up the terrain you will be adding to. These hexes are in certain colours and have a numbered dice on. This dictates what type of thing you can build there, and what numeric value dice you must use to do so. In fact, pretty much every action is linked to the numeric value of the dice that you use. At the start of your turn you will roll two dice which will dictate what you can do. Of course, there are ways to mitigate this, but it creates a nice little puzzle for you to solve. You are never left with nothing to do, just things which might not be as optimal for you.

Around the board are six number areas when you can choose one of two randomised things to build, be it animal pens, castles, buildings, mines or upgrade powers. Each of these need to be placed on your board to activate but you’ll need another die to do that. If you specialise you could well fill out one of the coloured areas for bonus points and in typical Feld style more points are available, the earlier you do this.

Castles of Burgundy is, or should be, a modern classic. Although somewhat ugly, and with average components, the gameplay is rich and full of decisions and meat to go with that point salad.

Player Count: 2-4
Time: 30-90 Minutes
Age: 12+

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The Castles of Burgundy Review

 

I always struggle when asked to name a favourite board game. Yet The Castles of Burgundy always springs to mind for me. Partially, this could be down to a touch of nostalgia, as it was one of the first modern board games I played. But there’s more to it than that.

It’s like a fun puzzle than gives something back, and is a rather smooth cruise into dice assignment, set collection and territory building. Let me tell you a little bit about how you play…

Set-up and Gameplay

If there’s one drawback to The Castles of Burgundy it’s the set-up, with many small tiles that need to be arranged it’s a touch fiddly. Bear with it though, these tiles are the crux of the game and the pay off is plentiful!

You have a central board that depicts six depots, where you can purchase tiles and goods. You each have a player board that represents your estate with two layout options. One side has a 'standard' layout; the other is different on each board, giving players the opportunity to play asymmetrically.

You each start with silver and workers, with the amount depending on start player, and you’re good to go. The game consists of five phases over five rounds. Each phase, all players roll two dice of their chosen colour, with the start player rolling the white die as well. This die indicates the depot where the goods on the phase spaces will go.

Players then take turns assigning their dice. This is where some tricky decision-making and light strategy comes in. Your dice allow you take tiles from the corresponding numbered depot and place tiles on your estate. A worker permits you to manipulate the dice, meaning you can increase or decrease your roll depending on number of workers you use.

Each time you score a region (a group of tiles on your estate) you gain points. Many tiles give you an additional action or bonus; e.g.- city tiles will gain you all sorts of lovely things, from silver to free workers. River tiles allow you to move up the shipping track (which alters the turn order) and take goods from any depot, and so forth.

Additionally players can use dice to gain workers or sell goods for points. There are also bonus tiles for completing regions first. At the end of the game all bonuses are tallied up, and the player highest on the score track wins.

The Castles of Burgundy Review - Game Components
The Castles of Burgundy Review - Game Components (Credit: Ravensburger)

Components & Artwork

The Castles of Burgundy isn’t an overly fussy game. You have some sturdy dice, a solid board, wooden player markers and medium weight cardboard tiles. The player boards are light but have good quality card stock (although I would prefer something a little heavier) but I am pleased to say that after years of playing this game it’s all still in great condition, with minimal wear and tear.

The cover art is perfectly reminiscent of medieval France and definitely has that familiar Euro game feel about it. The artwork within the game may be simplistic but it’s certainly vibrant - every time I photograph my plays it just pops.

As much as I love high-res and gorgeously detailed artwork there are certain games where it really isn’t necessary, and The Castles of Burgundy is one of them. It’s all those lush hexagons forming your (possibly) glorious estate that make it a joy.

Each time you score a region (a group of tiles on your estate) you gain points. Many tiles give you an additional action or bonus; e.g.- city tiles will gain you all sorts of lovely things, from silver to free workers. River tiles allow you to move up the shipping track (which alters the turn order) and take goods from any depot, and so forth.

Additionally players can use dice to gain workers or sell goods for points. There are also bonus tiles for completing regions first. At the end of the game all bonuses are tallied up, and the player highest on the score track wins.

Final Thoughts on The Castles of Burgundy

My favourite thing about The Castles of Burgundy is that it serves a purpose within my collection as 'The Chilled One' (i.e.- where you can really just relax and play). It requires some strategic thinking, and there are tons of decisions to be made very turn, but it’s very easy to get along with.

The gameplay may sound a little complex but it’s dead simple once you get the gist. There’s not a huge amount of player interaction and therefore has minimal conflict - aside from perhaps getting a tad peeved that another player nabbed your sought after tile.

It really is like a puzzle, but where you have specific aims - to complete a region, gain bonuses, finish your estate first and of course score points. There are no lost turns or dead ends; you can always achieve something every turn. You are very much in control of the game, and unlike with many other dice games there’s not too much randomness.

The best part for me is the wonderful design and the amazing amount of stuff you can do with your two dice. They represent a wealth of choices, and if you plan in advance you will have many ‘yes!’ moments.

When I play games it’s those moments that count and give me a wonderful sense of satisfaction and accomplishment..... And there is much to be had in The Castles of Burgundy.

The Castles of Burgundy Review Rating - 85%

You Might Like
• Clever use of dice and very little randomness.
• Highly replayable with the different estate layouts.
• Rewarding.

You Might Not Like
• Fiddly set-up.
• The light card stock player boards (though certainly not a deal breaker.)
• The minimal player interaction may not be your thing.

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Additional information

Weight0.965 kg
  • Zatu Review Summary
  • Zatu Score

    85%

    Rating

    • Artwork
    • Complexity
    • Replayability
    • Player Interaction
    • Component Quality

    You might like

    • Clever use of dice and very little randomness.
    • Highly replayable with the different estate layouts.
    • Rewarding.

    Might not like

    • Fiddly set-up.
    • The light card stock player boards (though certainly not a deal breaker.)
    • The minimal player interaction may not be your thing.